Exterior Mongolia Tours

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To travel in Mongolia, I almost did not prepare. Two weeks prior to crossing the border, I did not know that I would go back. So many things that should be known in advance and to further explore on the spot, passed me. Maybe I missed some sights that were in my way. But in any case, I think my little experience will be useful for the next generation of travelers. General issues described in various guidebooks (such as travel on planes, trains, cars, horses, and so on. D.), I will not touch, look for this link in the “Information”. I’ll tell you only what I saw and heard with my own eyes.

Technical information
I was in Mongolia from June 19 to July 8, 2009. Along with the Polish girl Agnieszka, who now works in Ulan-Ude, we drove into the country through the border crossing at Kyakhta (Republic of Buryatia), we spent two days in Ulaanbaatar, drove along the route Ulan Bator – Arwayheer – Bayankhongor – Altai – Khovd – Ulaangom – Kharkhorin – Ulan Bator. Then I drove alone on the route Ulan Bator – Өndөrhaan – Bayan-Uul and went to Russia through the border crossing Upper Ulhun (Chita Region). Most of the way hitchhiked, part – on the shuttles and buses.
Hereinafter in the text, I use the original Mongolian geographical names except for Ulaanbaatar, which will write in the traditional Russian transliteration (in Mongolian city name is spelled as “Ulaanbaatar”).

Pros and cons
Mongolia is known for two things. The first – the nomadic population to preserve the traditional way of life. It is said that the Mongols life has not changed much since the days of Genghis Khan, and it seems to be true: a large part of the country still live in yurts, breeds cattle roam from place to place in search of new pastures, eating meat and milk. Is that roam now many in the UAZ and Japanese trucks, while the wealthiest near the yurts are satellite dishes and solar panels. And the rest is the same – up to the national costumes, which the Mongols are not on holidays and in everyday life.
The second advantage – the beautiful and untouched nature. It is not a dull steppes of southern Russia or Ukraine brings boredom and melancholy. Mongolian steppe landscapes are always beautiful and diverse, and very rarely mutilated human constructions. Plain stretching into the distance on the horizon, always framed by beautiful hills, somewhere across picturesque rocks or stones, somewhere in the rocky steppe passes or sandy desert, somewhere is replaced by mountains covered with forest. And this Mongolian expanses here and there are yurts and wandering flocks of cattle and sheep: cows, goats, sheep, horses, camels, yaks.

Cons Mongolia logically follow from the pros. The beautiful nature and traditional way of life preserved by the fact that civilization has not reached here. Only Ulaanbaatar, photos of which I have shown, can be called a civilized city, where there is everything you need for life. Most other cities – it is rather small towns. The regional center of Mongolia resembles the latest regional center of the Russian, Mongolian regional centers and at all reminiscent of the village. A stretch between the cities of vast spaces, where human presence is noticeable only yurts standing alone in the desert track so (see. Section “Road”).

Generally, after traveling to Mongolia Russia begins to seem quite civilized country in which there are many roads and railways, roadside cafes, toilets, shops and supermarkets. When I traveled from Mongolia to Russia, there was a clear sense that the return from Asia to Europe – for the last 50 km before the border was killed by a dirt road from the pits and puddles, through which passed 1-2 cars a day, and after the border began smooth asphalt with good traffic. In short, it is nice that we have at least some country ahead of a hundred years ahead. The only thing we have significantly surpassed Mongolia – the development of animal husbandry. Once you see herds of several hundred animals, which are as grasshoppers, the Mongolian occupied up the green grass, not very happy looking at three or four thin hungry cows wandering around some transbaikalian village.

But otherwise, as I said, our country is much civility. I am for all his passion for travel is still love comfort, smooth roads, fast cars, hot meal at least once a day and a hot shower at least once in two days, and returned to Russia after Mongolia with some relief. So read the description of Mongolia, and how to think – are you ready for such challenges or better to go to the hitchhiking trip to the Benelux countries.

Information
An article on Mongolia “free encyclopedia”
Lonely Planet guide of Mongolia (Eng. Lang)
To explore the cultural and historical context, I recommend reading the wonderful book Isay Kalashnikov “Cruel Century” (Part 1 and Part 2) – the story of the life of Genghis Khan, from birth to death, as well as see a great film by Nikita Mikhalkov’s “Urga – Territory of Love” about the relationship between Russian and Mongols in China.

Visas
In Russia there is the Mongolian Embassy in Moscow and the Consulate in Ulan-Ude, Irkutsk, Kyzyl. Make yourself a visa without an invitation is usually impossible, the consulate immediately refer to the travel agency. In Ulan-Ude visa travel agency is 2300 rubles., Including consular fees, and takes 10-12 days. Earlier in Kyzylskaya consulate did visas without an invitation, but right now, I think, this is not.
Hit
Between Russia and Mongolia, there as many as 10 border crossings. Work is usually from 9.00 to 17.00. Learn more about crossing the border in Kyakhta I wrote here in Upper Ulhune – here. Interestingly, all three transitions – international, that is, there can cross the border residents of third countries. So if you are not a citizen of Mongolia or Russia, it will be possible to cross the border only in Kyakhta (Buryatia) or Tashanta (Altai Republic), or move it to train in Naushki (Buryatia). Note that the transition in Kyakhta – car, on foot it is impossible to cross, so if you are traveling stop, the border will have to fit into some sort of machine. Move to the upper Ulhune (Chita Region) – hiking, riding in the car or the bus no one makes.
From Ulan-Ude to Ulaanbaatar every day buses also pass through the capital of Buryatia train Moscow – Ulan Bator. As things elsewhere – I do not know.

Roads
Prior to traveling to Mongolia, I think that in Russia there are no roads. Now I understand that in our country the road is still there, even good. Because the Mongolian expensive – it is such a gesture which you’re nowhere, most likely will not see. Only from north to south, from Russia to China via Ulaanbaatar is decent paved road, plus there are areas of Ulaanbaatar west to Arwayheer (569 km, of which, however, 50-60 km is not yet built) with a branch to Kharkhorin and from Ulan Bator to the east to Өndөrhaana (331 km). Perhaps there are other sites, but I did not go on them.
The rest of the roads, including the major highway connecting the west and east of the country – it’s usually three or four rut in the wilderness, which converge, diverge and lead from one town to another. Between settlements no gas stations, no cafes, no milepost, no road signs, no cops, no cellular coverage – only the bare plain, on which everyone goes as he pleases. However, the quality of the roads is that violate the speed limit will not succeed at all desire, and the abundance of ruts reduces collisions to a minimum. Relief is usually such that you can even leave the track and go across the steppe in any direction.

On such roads, some people manage to travel even on ordinary passenger car, but it’s better to use SUVs – Japanese or Russian UAZ jeeps. The latter, incidentally, is preferable, because the Mongols are very common and happen that you will quickly find the parts. Even the Mongols ride motorcycles, vans Korean, Japanese trucks, Russian Kamaz. Foreign tourists usually move in jeeps and motorcycles. So, on the road we met colleagues four times: the Poles on a motorcycle, a group of French jeep, an Australian motorcyclist and the company Koreans traveled by minibus (most likely, too, Korean).

If you are coming by your own transport, be sure to stock up on a GPS-navigator – instead of roads here directions, so it is really lost, having left accidentally on a track leading to some remote village. Map is better to buy in the Mongolian language – then it will be easier to find the nomads, where you are and where you go. If you’re hitchhiking, you can basically do without a navigator – the drivers usually know the road and traveling from one city to another. The main thing – to find out where the driver is going, and then trust him find the right path.

Hitchhiking
Mongolia – the most difficult for all of the country hitchhiking where I was. Nevertheless, hitchhiking is interesting and fun, and if you have time left, you can ride this way. Just keep in mind some of the features of the Mongolian hitchhiking.
The first and main problem – low traffic. Very good ride only on paved trails (see. Section “Road”). Still quite animated route from the border crossing in Tashanta to Ulaanbaatar (in Ulaangom and Tsetserleg), although there can sometimes wait for a ride a few hours. In the remaining road machines are extremely rare – up to three or four cars a day. So please be patient, but also books, magazines and crossword puzzles – you can give us something to occupy yourself while you sit at half track. In short, “in my backpack fat and matches and eight volumes of Turgenev” – is just about Mongolia. We are sometimes so tired of sitting by the road that we took backpacks and walked so many Mongolians – drivers and locals – there is a feeling that we did go for their country. The essence of hitchhiking to explain complicated, so it is even better. Another note that between regional centers (if the road does not lead to Ulaanbaatar) traffic is very low – for example, from Ulaangom to Mөrөn unlikely to be hit directly, because the main flow of vehicles in Ulaanbaatar is the south through Tsetserleg. And hitchhike on local roads is not even worth trying, and if you do not want to get stuck somewhere for a week.

The second problem – is the choice of the right track in order to vote. It is easiest on the outskirts of a large city: usually a few kilometers before and after the large settlement is a paved road, so it is sufficient to leave the city and start the vote at this road. In another way, this is the case in the wilderness or near small towns and villages. It can track diverges at a distance of half a kilometer, and choose the desired bit hard. Sometimes it is possible to focus on the power lines – usually poles stand along the main track, but this rule does not always work. It is best to find some elevation views of the surrounding countryside, follow the road on which it will be the car, and if something happens to move quickly. If you zamashete hands, and the driver sees you, he is likely to stop or turn and will reach to you.

The third problem – overcrowding machines. During the trip, we drove only twice in the car where the driver was alone. Usually, in addition to him, there are passengers in the car, which, as a rule, are taking place. Interestingly, the cars stop, even if crowded – find out if you happened then, but to sit in the car stop is not always possible. Sometimes you ride in the car four-five of them in the back seat, sat her on his lap Mongolian child, sometimes lying on the luggage in the back of a truck, covered with dust and sand, sometimes sitting on a sleeping bag in the cab dalnoboev, slightly surpassing a lot of things, and distant relatives of the driver, which he took with him. In short, do not expect comfort.

And the fourth problem – dengoprosnost local people. Basically, the money supply expected for all, but most tried to persuade to free. “No money” in Mongolian, “Mungo bayhgo” – and before landing in the car are always one or two times, say these words. Only four times drivers hear a phrase disappointed we went on – and all of these times it took place on a busy part of the track, where we pretty quickly caught following car. In other places of the drivers understand that the next car you’ll wait another half day, and after serious deliberation still nod – they say, we climb. However, truckers and prosperous Ulan batortsy jeep doing it without much thought. But still it is a bit hard – especially after Russia, where about money virtually none of the drivers do not ask, and I did not warn you that the food is free.

In short, I recommend, if funds allow, to go through Mongolia on its vehicles. If you do not allow money, but time allows, use a bicycle – it will be slightly slower, but if you are an experienced velobayker, it may even faster than hitchhiking. For example, the section from Bayankhongor to Altai length of 390 km, we drove as many as three days. A portion of the city of Bayan-Uul to the border crossing Upper Ulhun length of 49 km I rode the whole day – there could ever be reached on foot in the same time.

Yet hitchhiking helps to explore the local life, to communicate with the Mongols, many of whom speak Russian. So if these difficulties do not confuse you, collect a backpack – and forward.

Commuter Transportation
Only in Ulan Bator have some semblance of bus stations, from which buses on a regular schedule and fares go to various regional centers. In other cities, buses or do not drive or ride as the spirit lay. Guidebooks recommend looking for minibuses in the city market. There you can find drivers, who travel to other cities, and are looking for compensation for travel expenses. Lonely Planet for some reason it is called “hitchhiking” – that is recommended to go to the market and find a car. I do not know, in my opinion, the traditional hitchhiking is still effective.
The prices of the buses is quite difficult to navigate. For example, from Ulan Bator to the Moon (130 km) we went for the 6 th. MNT, but from Ulan Bator to Darkhan (220 km), my fellow traveler was traveling for the same money. While it may, the fact is that until Darkhan ride on a paved road, and part of the way to the moon – has described the track in the desert.

Lodging for the night
Anyone who travels to Mongolia, it is imperative to at least once a night the nomads. Make it simple enough – enough to go to the yurt in the steppe and politely invite himself to visit. During our one night and day in the tent, we received generally very delicately: ask if you can put up a tent next to the yurt, but then, as we sat and rested after a hot day, we were invited into the very tent. In general, if you were in the wilderness, and the next will be a yurt – boldly suggests a visit. Better to take in advance sweets and chocolates – Give the children, put something on the table for tea, and everyone will be happy. If you are lucky to get a good dinner, but we just drink tea and goat’s milk.
Another good option overnight – roadside cafes. Almost each have one or more large beds width of 4-5 meters, which can spend the night for free, anyone who will order dinner or breakfast in the diner. Usually dinner for one person costs 2-3 thousand. MNT. However, on the same bed will sleep a few more people, but in the presence of free travel is your own sleeping bag, I think, do not confuse.

In large cities there are hotels. We stayed in those two times – in the city Arwayheer double room cost 11 thousand. MNT in the Altai – 15 th. MNT. The first hotel was not a soul in the second – the hot water. But if that can be found in the cities of the public baths, where you can take a shower for 1-2 thousand. MNT.

In a particularly promoted among tourists places there are guest houses and hostels, including such things yurt camping (several yurts, where you can spend the night). However, those who spent the night in real yurt, it is not particularly interesting: inside there are no attributes of nomadic life, only a few beds and bedside tables. In Kharkhorin this guesthouse worth 5 th. MNT person.

And a huge selection of accommodation in Ulaanbaatar. Firstly, it is the only city that is home to more or less active members and Hospitalityclub Couchsurfing, so that one can easily find a free night. Secondly, there is hotels, hostels, geskhauzy for every taste and pocket. Incidentally, in the guesthouse there is a discount Golden Gobi Russian and Poles: Chief Executive us so directly and said, so do not pay for accommodation six and five dollars per person. Keep in mind.

Meal
Vegetarians have nothing to do in Mongolia. All fruits and vegetables are imported from China, and the Mongols themselves make and eat almost all of the meat or milk. Only in Ulan Bator, you can find fresh salads, the rest of the luxury – a rarity. I was always a meat-eater and antiveganom, but he even started ispytvat nostalgia for salad or tomato-cucumber salad.

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